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Stories of poverty-stricken immigrants leaving their homelands in Europe or Australia to join the Saints in Utah are well-known, but Winds of Change by Jean Holbrook Mathews introduces a different kind of immigrant. After spending eighteen years in India as a highly respected military officer with a huge home, dozens of servants and being converted to the Gospel, Mathew McCune and his family depart from that country on an incredible journey that takes them half-way around the world to America. His four young sons have only known a life of ease and luxury, but that changes as they travel toward Zion. Their journey is filled with great contrasts and tests the faith of the entire family. Though this story is based on the lives of real people, it is important to remember the author has added dialog and details of her own to the journal account, making the story fiction rather than biography.

WINDS OF CHANGE by Jean Holbrook Mathews

Winds of Change by Jean Holbrook Mathews is a fictionalized account of a real family that played an important role in the history of the West and especially in Utah. Many of their descendants still make their homes in the land their ancestors struggled so hard to reach. The story begins in 1852 in India with Matthew McCune, an officer in the British military. After eighteen years of service in India and conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he makes the decision to travel half way around the world to join the Saints in Utah. The trip is long and arduous. On the way the family faces many hardships and experiences a totally different way of life. Their journey includes ships, a train, a wagon train, and horseback riding. They go from a forty-room mansion and dozens of servants in India to a two room shack in Utah.

The story is told from three major points of view. Matthew McCune is authoritative and runs his family as he does the men in his military unit. He commands; they obey. Much of the story is taken from his journals as he was a meticulous journal keeper. Then there’s Sarah, Matthew’s wife, who doesn’t want to leave India where four of her eight children are buried, including her only daughter, but she is obedient in all things. She meekly prepares the children and supports Matthew even when she finds some of his demands unreasonable. Their trek across the American plains necessitates learning to cook and doing many things she is accustomed to having servants do. The other view point used is that of the oldest son, Harry who grows from boy to man. As a young man he makes difficult decisions concerning obeying his father or taking a stand for the young woman he has grown to love.

The other three boys; George, Alfred William, and Edward James are younger than Harry and though they grow up to take strong roles in Utah and their careers they are seen only through the eyes of the other characters in the story. Matthew is not a likable character, though the author handles his depiction well, allowing the reader to respect his accomplishments and faith in spite of his less lovable characteristics. Sarah’s meek acceptance of her husband’s dictates could have made her a weak character, but she is actually strong where strength is needed and her gentle love for her sons goes a long way toward forming their character. Harry is easy to like and relate to and the reader will sympathize with the difficult choices he must make.

The author has committed impressive research toward the background of this book. From the East India Company and British rule of India with the wars and intrigues of that period to the realities and poverty of immigrants arriving in New York, and the long, difficult trek west, the so-called Mormon War, and the settlement of western communities, she imbues the story with touching, accurate details that bring the story to life. Not only does she relate the political and human aspects of the different stages, but she adds enough of the plant, wild life, and topography to add visual depth.

Though this story is clearly historical, it also is a story of complicated human emotions and is a study of the part faith plays in determining each individual’s journey through life.

Jean Holbrook Mathews was born in Utah, but spent most of her adult life in Missouri. Active in politics, she served as a Missouri State Representative for ten years. She served a mission in the Philippines with her husband. They currently live in Mesa, Arizona.

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WINDS OF CHANGE by Jean Holbrook Mathews, published by Covenant Communications, Inc., 242 pages, soft cover $16.99. Also available for eReaders.